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Eyewitness describes bicycle rider’s collision with MAX train


Streetview of where our eyewitness commenter was stopped in his car while he watched the collision unfold. The red lines show the path of the bicycle rider. The crossing and collision is marked with an “X” in the background.

On March 13th a man riding a bicycle was involved in a collision with a MAX light rail train in southeast Portland. We haven’t heard much in the way of official updates in the case, but thanks to a comment left on our story yesterday we now know more about where and how it happened.

This crossing just south of Powell is where the collision occurred.

A commenter named “Jeff” says he say it all unfold. His version of events (edited for readability) is below:

“I saw this happen. I was in my car going northbound on 17th when I was stopped by the gate for the MAX train to come through (I was at the curve starting to go west). After about 20 seconds, I saw the train slowly coming down the tracks getting close to the intersection. Then I saw a biker biking what seemed fairly slowly perpendicular to the train going northbound. A second later, confusion started to sink in that he was still biking towards the track with the train coming.

Then I saw him casually (and I mean super-casually like a jogger could have easily kept up or passed him) keep going over the tracks and then get hit. Endorphins instantly raced through me and I shouted out, “Oh my God!“, which shocked my wife (a registered nurse and has worked in Behavioral Health) who was in the back seat with our 19 month-old son. She said “What happened!?” and I said a biker just got hit by the MAX train and she said,”Let me out!

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She ran to him and was the first on the scene. I stayed with my son. She said the biker just wanted to get up and said he had things to do and needed to go but she convinced him to not move a muscle and kept him down until an off-duty fire fighter showed up to help and then shortly after a fire engine showed up. She said he was most likely on something but maybe just in shock and completely out of it from getting hit, maybe even just alcohol but he smelled quite bad, was wearing not so great clothes (to put it nicely), and the bike was quite old and beat up as well (not just from this incident). Yes, there is a chance he could have been homeless. I really do hate making assumptions but perhaps it should be know to help piece the story together?

Now I’m going to feel bad saying this if the guy is a good man who was just down on his luck having a rotten day and his shower hasn’t been working for days, but that was his current situation. Her description of him went along with my guess that he was on something because how could he have not seen the train coming with him going so slow and the train going quite slow too? It made no sense to me how that could happen. Seemed like there could have been a hundred signs, gates, bells, and lights and this guy still would have gotten through it all to finally meet the front of the train.

I do hope to hear the final report about him. I’m so so glad he survived. Who knows what his situation is and I never look down on people that have been dealt a bad hand in life. I hope he comes out of this OK and has a good recovery. And looks both ways next time.”

Crossings have been a major concern for TriMet and the community since the Orange Line opened in 2014. As we’ve reported, TriMet has installed gates and other measures at other crossings (where there are both light rail and heavy rail crossings). At this particular crossing there are no gates installed.

We’ve asked TriMet for an update on the riders’ condition and will update this post when we hear back.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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